History of the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival
History of the Apple Blossom Festival. Check out the display of Festival history at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center (127 S. Mission St.)
The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival Association is a Washington non-profit corporation. Formerly, it was a semi-autonomous division of the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce, and is now an independent organization. It is the oldest major festival in the state of Washington.
The Festival was born in 1919, the brainchild of Mrs. E. Wagner, wife of the district's first apple shipper and a native of New Zealand. She enjoyed the festivals of her childhood so much that she suggested beginning a similar festival in the Wenatchee Valley. The Ladies Musical Club produced the first festival in 1920, and the first Apple Blossom Festival Queen was Fern Prowell who reigned over the festivities, then called "Blossom Days." The one-day event in Memorial Park involved songs, speeches, Maypoles, and baseball.
The event drew large delegations of business and community leaders from throughout Seattle, Spokane, and North Central Washington, and its continuance was assured. In 1921 the Commercial Club, forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, took over sponsorship of the celebration. The first parade was held that spring. From this birth, our celebration carries the distinction of being the first Apple Blossom Festival in the country, and the oldest major festival in Washington. Only Sequim Irrigation Days in Western Washington is older than our Apple Blossom Festival.
Six festivals passed before the opening of the Stevens Pass Highway, Wenatchee's first direct link to Seattle. When Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon made airborne history terminating the first non-stop, trans-pacific flight in 1931, fourteen festivals had come and gone.
Following a three-year hiatus during the outbreak of WW2, the Festival was re-named the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival to more accurately reflect the importance of the Apple Industry to North Central Washington and the State.
In 1967, Wenatchee established a sister city relationship with the Amori Apple Blossom Festival in Japan, and the nation watched history being made after the 50th Festival as the first human stepped onto the surface of the Moon.
The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival now draws thousands of visitors from around the world during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. The 11-day festival includes:
- Carnival: The Festival is very proud to have America's seventh largest carnival, Funtastic Shows, participate in its annual event. There are approximately 25 rides and games for all age groups, plus lots of food. The Funtastic Carnival is located at Riverfront Park at the foot of Fifth Street on the Columbia River.
- Golf Tournament: 144 golfers participate in one of the best tournaments in the Northwest at the beautiful Highlander Golf Course.
- Food Fair: Held in Memorial Park, at the corner of Orondo and Chelan, the Food Fair runs the entire 11 days of the Festival. A delicious part of the Apple Blossom Festival is the Food Fair; over 20 booths featuring items such as: tasty funnel cakes, hearty barbecue, various ethnic cuisine, crepes, ice cream, espresso, caramel apples, elephant ears, pizza, Caesar salads, sandwiches and much, much more. From lunch through dinner, many tasty treats satisfy the appetite and make meal plans during the Festival a snap!
- Entertainment: Held at the stage in Memorial Park, Entertainment runs the entire length of the festival. Lots of wonderful entertainment performs during the lunch and dinner hours on weekdays and all day on both weekends. The Entertainment, along with the Food Fair makes Memorial Park the place to be during the Festival.
- Youth Parade: The Festival's Youth Parade is one of the only parades in the state to feature so many of Washington's youngster. Over 4,500 children ages 14 & under (and some who are just young at heart) truly have a wonderful time at this celebration! Imagination is the key ingredient to the many fanciful floats, costumes, preschool groups, and other entries which delight over 50,000 spectators along the route, which runs from Triangle Park at the top of Orondo down to Mission and ends at Fifth Street.
- Youth Day: The Pepsi-Cola Youth Day has quadrupled in size since the first year it was held in 1986. This free event includes face painting, rubber stamping, and displays by many of our local youth-oriented programs. Organizations will provide a variety of hand-on activities for youth of all ages. Youth Day is held the Sunday after the Youth Parade at Memorial Park from 11am-4pm.
- Art 4 Kidz: This valley wide contest is open to kids Pre-K through 12th grade with several different categories. All art entries will be displayed and winners will be announced on Youth Day in Memorial Park.
- Arts & Crafts Fair: This 3-day event attracts over 140 vendors and 100,000 spectators. All items are handcrafted and categories include clothing, music, fine arts, made for children, wood, pottery, candles/soap, metal, country, jewelry, & leather. The Arts & Crafts Fair takes place in Memorial Park the first weekend of May.
- Grand Parade: The cannon sounds promptly at 11:00 am to announce the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival Grand Parade, which has been going strong since the Festival's beginning in 1919. As always, leading off the parade is the traditional Apple Blossom Fun Run, in addition to the daredevil maneuvers of the Seattle Police Motorcycle Drill team. Bands from throughout the Northwest join with many colorful floats and proud-stepping equestrian units to make this one of Washington's grandest parades, to a crowd of over 100,000 spectators.
The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival exhibits the pride that its many volunteers take in the Wenatchee area’s spectacular natural beauty, its prosperous economy, and family values.
Economic Impact of the Festival
The Washington State Apple Blossom Festival benefits our community in a variety of ways:
- Approximately 5,500 people participate in the Grand Parade. Most will spend money on hotel rooms, food, gasoline, souvenirs, and supplies while they are here. Another 3,500-4,000 participate in the Youth Parade.
- VIP's from other festivals throughout the Northwest attend the Apple Blossom Festival and spend money on lodging, meals, entertainment, etc...
- The two parades and the many other activities attract over 100,000 visitors who spend money on products ranging from cotton candy and soda, to food, lodging, and gas.
- The Arts & Crafts Fair attracts over 140 exhibitors who average a two-day stay, and spend money on food, lodging, and supplies.
- The 20 Concessionaires operating in Memorial park purchase fresh produce, groceries, sodas, and restaurant supplies during their stay.
- During the 11-day run of the Carnival, Funtastic Shows hires many local people for set-up, operations, and tear-down. They, too, purchase local produce and groceries, and spend money on wages, permits, electricity, etc...
- Many non-profit organizations put on events in the Wenatchee Area for the benefit of the community. The funds these groups raise are re-invested in our community for the betterment of our citizens.
The Apple Blossom Festival benefits our area in ways both tangible and intangible.